When I was 13, in a house two doors down from where I now live, I saw little Black children get water-cannoned on TV just for wanting to go to school. I got to go to school; nobody ever tried to stop me, so why couldn’t they go to school?
I saw Black senior citizens get billy-clubbed for asking for their right to vote. My Mom and Dad got to vote, nobody ever said they couldn’t; so why didn’t those Americans down in Mississippi and Alabama and Carolina get to vote? It didn’t make any sense to me, it just wasn’t right. If a 13-year-old kid could see it, anybody could see it. It was all there on TV.
Last night, I saw America apologize to those little Black kids and those senior citizens. We finally said we’re sorry, we were wrong, please forgive us. We’ll make it up to you. We made a mistake and now we’ll make it right.
A lot of people died between then and now; Medgar Evers, Viola Liuzzo, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner. Jonathan Daniels died. Martin King Jr. was shot to death. John Lewis got his head beat in.
We were wrong. But now we’ve made it right, and the 13-year-old boy in me is now at rest.
The election of Barack Obama was not about Medgar Evers or Dr. King, it was about who Americans choose to solve our current problems. But to get the Chief Executive we wanted we had to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.
So by God we did it. Yes, we did.
Indiana did it. Pennsylvania and Nevada did it. North Carolina, Florida and Virginia crossed that bridge.
The entire Northeast. The entire Midwest! Seven states in the West crossed the Alabama River.
Free at last, free at last—thank God Almighty I’m free at last!++